AUS Tertiary Update

Published: Thu 6 Oct 2005 01:33 PM
Salient injunction lifted in odd case
In what must be one of the more unusual stories this year, injunction proceedings launched last Friday by the Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, Professor Pat Walsh, against the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association and the editorial staff of the student newspaper Salient have been withdrawn. In statement released late yesterday, the parties advised that the dispute had been resolved, confidential documents leaked to Salient would be returned and the edition of Salient containing the leaked information would be distributed. The parties announced that they looked forward to “continuation of positive working relationships” and would not be making any further comment to the media about the matter.
In the story which unfolded late last week, preliminary information prepared by the Vice-Chancellor for his Council’s Finance Committee was leaked to Salient. It showed that the University was considering tuition-fee increases for next year of between 5 and 10 percent, on the basis that “real” government funding was continuing to decline and other major revenue sources were expected to decrease. Intending to publish the information, Salient sought official comment from University management. Their reaction was to ask for the confidential papers be returned. By that time, however, the story had been placed on the students’ newswire service for broad distribution, including publication in most other student papers.
Then, without telling the students what they were doing, University management obtained an interim injunction in the High Court preventing Salient, which by then was at the printer, from being published. Obviously not trusting the students to comply with the interim injunction, University management then seized all 6,000 copies of Salient as they were being delivered from the printer, opening themselves up to allegations of unlawful seizure or theft.
Commenting on Radio New Zealand, Martyn Bradbury, a former editor of Auckland’s student newspaper, Craccum, said he was surprised at the lengths to which the University had gone to shut down student media, but even more surprised that the students themselves were not up in arms about the injunction. It is understood to be the first time ever in the publication’s history that such an action has been taken.
Questions from Tertiary Update, asking why the University had not advised the students it was seeking an injunction, and why it seized the issue of Salient, rather than relying on the students to abide by the injunction, did not receive a response.
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Lincoln deal goes to ratification
2. National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence closer
3. Critic named best student publication
4. Waitangi Tribunal to consider Wananga case
5. Students paid compensation for poor courses
6. Plan threatens to split AVCC
7. Oxford drops controversial plans
8. UK pay inequity persists
9. More than 2 million US degrees awarded
Lincoln deal goes to ratification
Union members at Lincoln University voted yesterday to send to ratification a new salary offer from their employer after resoundingly rejecting an earlier proposal to increase salaries by 3.7 percent from 1 May. A new position, to supplement the original offer with an additional 1 percent from 1 October, was reached in negotiations which resumed on Tuesday afternoon.
The new offer will be voted on by a postal ballot of union members which closes next Friday.
Meanwhile, the University Tripartite Forum Working Group met in Wellington yesterday to discuss draft papers on university salaries and resourcing and on the policy and strategic context for the university sector.
National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence closer
The establishment of a National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence is moving closer, with confirmation last week that the Government will provide $4 million per year towards its funding through the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). The progress follows recommendations by the Teaching Matters Forum which was convened earlier in the year, to provide assistance and advice on the setting up of the Centre and to engage with the tertiary-education sector on options for supporting effective teaching and learning. The Forum included AUS representative Andrea Haines.
The Government has now identified the key goals for the Centre as helping to build the teaching capability of Tertiary Education Organisations and educators, providing advice related to teaching excellence to the sector and government agencies and leading research, along with monitoring and evaluating activities related to effective teaching and learning in tertiary education.
TEC says that, as well as undertaking research, the Centre will support groups that work with teachers and learners, including existing networks and professional bodies, while remaining relevant and accessible to individual teachers. Importantly, it will create incentives for improvement in quality, such as running and further improving the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards from 2007.
It is intended that the Centre should be up and running next year, once a decision is made on how and where it will be hosted. The AUS will participate in a meeting in Wellington next week to look further at the process to set up the Centre.
More information on the establishment of the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, including the Forum’s recommendations and Minister’s response, can be found at:
Critic named best student publication
The Otago University student magazine, Critic, was named the best publication by a panel of media experts at the annual Aotearoa Student Press Association awards held in Auckland last Saturday night in association with the NZ Listener.
Critic scooped seven of the sixteen awards on offer, including best-designed publication, best news writer (paid) and best editorial writer for Editor Holly Walker.
One judge, feature writer and columnist Steve Braunias, said Critic was “Solid, entertaining, provocative, sometimes properly stupid, and, possibly, vital to Dunedin … [with] lots of humour and a clear editorial intelligence at work.”
Media commentator Russell Brown described Critic as having had a banner year. “The issues submitted were strong from beginning to end. While it does the basics well, the pages look good and the copy is well-edited, Critic also shows a distinctive editorial imagination,” he said.
Auckland University of Technology’s Debate was named best small publication.
Other winners on the night included Craccum Co-Editor Alec Hutchinson, who won the categories of best columnist and best features writer.
The Aotearoa Student Press Association comprises thirteen publications from the country’s university and polytechnic campuses. These were the fourth annual awards, and the second held in association with The Listener.
Waitangi Tribunal to consider Wananga case
The Waitangi Tribunal will consider next week whether to give urgency to a claim by the Aotearoa Institute that the Government breached the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi in its dealings with Te Wananga o Aotearoa. In a wide-ranging set of claims, the Institute, Wananga’s parent body, alleges that the Crown’s attempts to impose a quota of 80 percent Maori students on the Wananga is both illegal and racially divisive, and that the Crown has failed to honour a promise to pay the Wananga $20 million due under a suspensory loan intended to provide adequate capital for the institution to operate.
Aotearoa Institute spokespeople, Harold Maniapoto and Tui Adams, said that they were delighted that the Waitangi Tribunal has confirmed that its application for urgency will be heard at a judicial conference on the afternoon of 13 October. “There will be oral submissions from counsel for both sides and the full Board of the Aotearoa Institute, Te Kuratini O Nga Waka, will attend the proceedings,” they said. “The judicial conference will be open to the public, and to the media.”
“We look forward to the Waitangi Tribunal making a decision on the urgency claim we have filed, and getting on with resolving the Treaty of Waitangi breaches as soon as possible,” they said.
Meanwhile, there has been no word from the caretaker Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, on whether the Government will dismiss the Wananga’s Council and replace it with a commissioner.
Students paid compensation for poor courses
Polytechnics are paying students thousands of dollars in compensation over course complaints, but universities are not, according to a report in the Sunday Star Times. Eight of New Zealand’s nineteen polytechnics have paid nearly $220,000 in compensation or fees’ refunds to disgruntled students, while several more are dealing with new complaints. They include the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, which currently faces claims worth $100,000 from two students.
According to the Sunday Star Times, few would give details of their payments or the complaints that sparked them, leaving prospective students unaware of problem courses.
The Eastern Institute of Technology refused to identify the course on which it refunded fees for five disgruntled students, and four other polytechnics gave limited details about their payouts, citing confidentiality clauses or student privacy. Wellington Institute of Technology would not say if it had even made any financial settlements, claiming it was subject to an obligation of confidence [sic]. Making the information available “would be likely to damage the public interest”, an official is quoted as saying.
The New Zealand University Students’ Association said that government should require the institutions to reveal any upheld complaints. “It would be worrying if institutions were having complaints that were resulting in payouts and other students couldn’t find that out,” said Co-President Camilla Belich.
Auckland, Otago, Lincoln and Canterbury Universities said they had not paid compensation to disgruntled students, while Massey University had no record of payouts. Waikato University had paid two students in the past five years.
Auckland University of Technology had not received any claims of great substance, but said a search of its records would cost $1140.
From next year, the Tertiary Education Commission will monitor institutions’ performance. The worst-performing institutions could lose 3 to 5 percent of their funding.
Plan threatens to split AVCC
The Group of Eight (Go8) universities has thrown down the gauntlet to the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee in a move that will further splinter the group and prompt fears of a breakaway bid by the big research institutions. Under a Go8 plan revealed this week, the AVCC executive structure would be overhauled and its capacity to speak on behalf of all university chiefs curtailed. It would also lead to the appointment of a full-time president who is not a serving vice-chancellor. The model proposes a new constitution for the thirty-eight-member committee, which would be the umbrella body for a federated network comprising stronger sub-groups of universities than now exist.
In August, the Go8 made its first public stand against the AVCC when it attacked the AVCC's response to the contentious research-quality framework. That prompted fears among other vice-chancellors of a funding grab by the research universities in the new carve-up of more than $500 million in research block grants.
Tensions between the Go8 and other members have grown in recent months, brought to a head by the Government's research agenda. The AVCC has found it increasingly difficult to find points on which all its members agree in a rapidly changing policy environment in which institutions are being forced to pursue diverse interests.
Among the issues on which there have been notable differences are research, teaching and learning quality, industrial relations and student fees.
The Go8 comprises the Universities of Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, Western Australia, Adelaide and NSW, Monash University and the Australian National University.
The Australian
Oxford drops controversial plans
Britain’s Oxford University has dropped controversial plans for a new body of external representatives to oversee its affairs. Proposals to create an independent, thirteen-member board of trustees that would hold Oxford’s purse strings and make its corporate decisions have been dropped in a revised governance green paper published last week.
The new consultation paper proposes a fifteen-member Council with eight external representatives, including an external chairman, and seven internal members who will deal with funding and other corporate matters. The Council, which would initially be chaired by Oxford’s chancellor, Lord Patten, would be the principal policymaking body with “ultimate responsibility” below the present 3,500-member congregation, which will retain its position at the pinnacle of the University’s ruling structure. Academic issues, however, would be delegated to a thirty-six-member Academic Board, made up of ten heads of subject divisions, ten members elected by colleges and ten elected by congregation. The board would be chaired by Oxford’s New Zealand Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood.
The new plans represent a radical scaling down of original proposals, published in February, for a 150-member academic council, as well as a careful compromise in the face of strong opposition to the idea of an independent board of trustees.
Dr Hood said the discussion paper, which will be debated by Congregation on November 1 before going to Council for a decision on December 5, “puts forward revised proposals aimed at preserving what is best, while at the same time making the decision-making process less remote and more efficient.”
From the Times Higher Education Supplement
UK pay inequity persists
Female academics continue to earn less on average than their male counterparts across all job grades, from professors to junior researchers, according to data compiled in the United Kingdom by the Higher Education Statistics Agency this week.
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) said that, while the overall gender pay-gap for UK full-time academic staff dropped from 15 percent in 2002-03 to 14 percent for 2003-04, the data show that, in some universities, the gap between male and female pay in equivalent jobs approaches 20 percent.
AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt said that the figures showed a continuing deplorable gap between the earnings of male and female academics. “It is time that institutions followed their own guidance, agreed nationally three years ago, by implementing an equal-pay review to identify and eliminate this inequality."
The figures show that female professors earned an average of £53,878 in 2004, 6.3 percent less than their male counterparts, whose average pay was £57,486. Female senior lecturers took home £40,594, 4 percent less than male senior lecturers, and female lecturers just under £32,000, some 3 percent less than men on the same job grade.
The gap was wider among researchers, with women earning 5 percent less than men, £25,046 compared with £26,353.
The largest gender gap, a 17 percent pay difference between men and women, was found in academic jobs classified as “other”. This designation covers academics not in the standard job grades of professor, senior lecturer, lecturer or researcher.
AUT and Times Higher Education Supplement
More than 2 million US degrees awarded
A survey of nearly 6,600 colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid has found that the four-year institutions among them conferred approximately 2.2 million degrees during the 2003-04 academic year, according to data released by the US Education Department.
In a report, the National Center for Education Statistics analysed data collected from institutions that receive student aid. Among other factors, the report includes the level and number of degrees awarded and the recipients’ ethnicity, gender and field of study. The report covers institutions ranging from one and two-year colleges to doctoral institutions.
The report found that two-thirds of all post-secondary degrees were awarded to white, non-Hispanic students, and that 57 percent of the degree recipients at four-year institutions were women. It also includes data for the 2004-05 academic year, including tuition for undergraduate, graduate and professional programmes.
The full report, “Postsecondary Institutions in the United States: Fall 2004, and Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2003-4,” is available on the Statistics Center’s Web site.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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